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Self Evident: Asian America's Stories

May 21, 2019

What does it mean to be excluded from the American Dream? Two stories, set 100 years apart, explore this question from the perspective of immigrants who think they’ve made it in America, only to find out that their dream comes at a cost.

"No Place Like Home"

At the height of America’s Exclusion era, an Indian immigrant’s quest for prosperity ends in a tragic realization that being a “good immigrant” isn’t enough to escape the realities of racism.

"Non-White Picket Fences"

A fight over a homeless shelter in one of America’s most Asian cities reveals the choices that Americans face in seeking suburban paradise.

Share your story and keep the conversation going!

Do you have a story about feeling excluded from the “American Dream”? Where or when in your life have you felt most like you belonged?

Email your story to or share with us on social media @SelfEvidentShow, with the hashtag #WeAreSelfEvident.

Resources and Recommended Reading:

Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255

The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress and prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones.

History of Angel Island Immigration Station, by the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation

History of “Race, Nationality, and Reality” (including more about the Supreme Court decisions that declared only white people could be U.S. citizens) at National Archives

Primary Sources chronicling the life of Vaishno Das Bagai, preserved by the South Asian American Digital Archive

The Making of Asian America: A History by Erika Lee, published by Simon & Schuster

Escape From Los Angeles: White Flight From Los Angeles and Its Schools, 1960-1980” by Jack Schneider, for the Journal of Urban History

The Court Case That Forced OC to Stop Ignoring Its Homeless” by Jill Replogle, for LAist

Public Record of Irvine City Council Emergency Town Hall Meeting to discuss the proposal to place an emergency homeless shelter in the Orange County Great Park

Public Record of Orange County Board of Supervisors Meeting to discuss the proposal to place emergency homeless shelters in Huntington Beach, Irvine, and Laguna Niguel

The OC Needle Exchange Program research directory lists many sources of information regarding the public health outcomes of syringe exchanges

In Fighting Homeless Camp, Irvine’s Asians Win, but at a Cost” by Anh Do, for the Los Angeles Times

Asian Americans in Irvine Draw Outrage for Protesting Homeless Shelters” by Carl Samson, for NextShark

Supervisors Defend Their Turf and Criticize Spitzer’s Homeless Warnings” by Nick Gerda, for Voice of OC

Homelessness in Orange County: The Costs to Our Community,” a research report by UC Irvine faculty, sponsored by OC United Way and Jamboree Housing

Executive Summary of research on our national homelessness crisis done by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty

"Student Housing Issues at UC Irvine," a recently released research report by Izzak Mirales at UC Irvine, based in part on data collected by the ASUCI Housing Security Commission.

"Irvine Student Housing Cost and Crowding Under Scrutiny in Report Presented at UCI" by Lilly Nguyen, for the Los Angeles Times

Not in My Backyard: What the Shouting Down of One Homeless Housing Complex Means for Us All” by Jill Replogle for Southern California Public Radio

Shout Outs:

Erika Lee and Samip Mallick helped us connect with Rani Bagai.

Brandon Morales, Mike Carman and Molly Nichelson helped us report our story about homelessness in Irvine, California.

Anne Saini and Jill Replogle graciously consulted with our team on these stories.

We received feedback on this episode from Aileen Tieu, Aishwarya Krishnamoorthy, Akira Olivia Kumamoto,  Alex Wong, Alicia Tyree, Anish Patel, Chris Lam, Emily Ewing Hays, Erica Eng, Irene Noguchi, Jen Young, Jennifer Zhan, Jon Yang, Jonathon Desimone, Kelly Chan, Kevin Do, Lynne Guey, Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello, Marvin Yueh, Mia Warren, Rebecca Jung, Robyn Lee, and Tommy Tang.

This episode was made possible by the generous support of Stefan Mancevski and the rest of our 1,004 crowdfund backers.


Produced by James Boo, Cathy Erway, and Associate Producer Kathy Im

Additional reporting by Anthony Kim

Edited by James Boo and Cheryl Devall

Tape syncs by Mona Yeh and Eilis O’Neill

Production support and fact checking by Katherine Jinyi Li

Editorial support from Davey Kim, Alex Laughlin, Senior Producer Julia Shu, and Executive Producer Ken Ikeda

Sound Engineering by Timothy Lou Ly

Theme Music by Dorian Love

Music by Blue Dot Sessions and Epidemic Sound

Sound effects by Soundsnap

Self Evident is a Studiotobe production. Our show was incubated at the Made in New York Media Center by IFP. Season 1 is presented by the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), the Ford Foundation, and our listener community.

About CAAM:

CAAM (Center for Asian American Media) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to presenting stories that convey the richness and diversity of Asian American experiences to the broadest audience possible. CAAM does this by funding, producing, distributing, and exhibiting works in film, television, and digital media. For more information on CAAM, please visit With support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, CAAM provides production funding to independent producers who make engaging Asian American works for public media.